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Moir Tournament wrapup: Wilson helped champ East boys turn the tide

By Mike London

Salisbury Post

Some final thoughts on another exciting Moir Christmas Classic …

Sophomore Brandon Abel’s thunderous dunk to start the second half energized Salisbury, and when Joe Allen swooped in for a bucket with 6:04 left in the third quarter, the Hornets led the boys championship game of the RoMedical Care Sam Moir Christmas Classic 44-37. Things looked bleak for East Rowan.

When East coach Greg McKenzie called a full timeout with 2:48 remaining in the quarter, East still hadn’t connected on a second-half field goal against Salisbury’s inspired defense and trailed by six points.

The tide turned unexpectedly when East’s Spenser Davis sat down for a rare rest, and McKenzie inserted 5-foot-10 senior Travis Wilson into the game for the first — and only — time.

Fans and radio broadcasters checked their programs to figure out who No. 31 was because Wilson has a very low profile. If Wilson were a U.S. president, he would be Millard Fillmore or Chester Arthur. He had scored 14 points all season and just 20 points in his varsity career.

East trailed 45-40 with 1:48 left in the quarter when Wilson, who had been on the court roughly 10 seconds, soared to reclaim a missed shot and stuck the ball in the basket as he was fouled. Then he calmly swished the rainbow free throw that cut East’s deficit to 45-43.

Wilson’s stat line read three minutes, three points, but his contribution was pivotal in East surviving a third quarter in which it made only two field goals.

After receiving the MVP award after East’s first title-game victory in 31 years, Davis’ first comment was, “How ’bout Travis Wilson?”

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A FREEZE ON 3s: The book on East Rowan is that it is a fantastic 3-point shooting team, but the Mustangs aren’t a one-trick pony.

East shot 19.2 percent from the floor in the second half of the title game and still found a way to win.

East didn’t make its first 3-pointer until Justin Vanderford connected with 3:24 left in the first half, and the Mustangs shot 2-for-16 on 3s in regulation.

East did hit three 3-pointers in the first OT to open a 61-54 lead, but Salisbury erased its deficit on four quick points by Allen and a mind-blowing 3-pointer by Doug Campbell.

Salisbury’s defense obviously contributed to East’s offensive struggles. So did a virus that limited Kurt Misenheimer to one field-goal attempt. Misenheimer is East’s top percentage 3-point shooter at 40.0 percent.

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TURN IT UP: How did East win when it was out-rebounded and out-shot by the Hornets?

Turnovers and lots more free-throw attempts.

Salisbury had 24 turnovers to East’s nine.

The Hornets were 6-for-7 at the line while East was 18-for-26.

Experience was also on East’s side. Many of the Mustangs had played in a Western Regional final, a CPC championship game and two previous Moir title games.

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ABOVE THE RIM: At times, Allen and Abel played volleyball above the Mustangs. They combined for 25 boards — 10 on the offensive end — but neither was awarded with a free-throw attempt until Allen made two in the first overtime.

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MOBILE HOLMES: East junior Trey Holmes played in 15 games last season and scored a meager three points, but he’s the county’s most improved player.

The lefty contributed 11 points and a team-high eight rebounds against Salisbury and deserved consideration for the all-tournament team.

“Trey’s one of those kids that only plays basketball during basketball season (Holmes also competes in baseball and football), but he’s emerging as a good player,” McKenzie said. “He’s got great hand-to-eye coordination, he’s athletic, and he gives us another rebounder.”

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REMATCH: Everyone yawned when an early East-Salisbury matchup was postponed to Jan. 3, but now there are lots of reasons watch.

‘See ya on Wednesday,” Davis said to Campbell, as they parted ways after the championship game.

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FOUR-MIDABLE: Salisbury’s girls, winners of four Christmas tournament titles in a row, have no superstars, but coaches Jennifer Shoaf, Doug Faison and Osborne Fields have a multitude of good players, play smothering defense and are getting better every week.

Concord came within an eyelash of winning Cabarrus’ Christmas tournament, and the Hornets recently held the Spiders to 25 points.

West coach Bob Blake, a two-time victim, believes this is Salisbury’s best team ever.

Salisbury plays host to undefeated East Davidson on Jan. 19. Don’t miss that one.

North Rowan gets a shot at East Davidson on Tuesday.

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Contact Mike London at 704-797-4259 or mlondon@salisbury post.com.

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